Final Approval Granted to SOMA Affordable Housing Project

by Casey Mills on March 30, 2005

The Board of Supervisors gave final approval last night to an affordable housing project that will provide 56 new units to some of the city’s poorest residents. Located at 785 Brannan and owned by the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, the project will offer large Single Resident Occupancy (SRO) units with kitchenettes to those making 50 percent or less of the city’s adjusted median income. The project represents a new, unique approach to inclusionary housing in San Francisco.

The unanimous vote by the Board came following a hearing held to address the concerns of a small group of South of Market residents opposing the project. The opposition’s leader, Geri Scott, claimed that the development would produce too much trash, which would then be “spread around by the dumpster divers” living at a nearby homeless shelter. Scott also claimed that the new development would not provide enough parking, causing traffic congestion.

Advocates for the project claimed opposition was not really about trash or parking.

“What this is really about is that they don’t want a low-income housing project in their neighborhood,” said Alice Barkley, the attorney representing the Tenderloin Housing Clinic.

It appeared the Board agreed. Their final nod represented the last step in a long process towards obtaining approval for the project, a process that began in 2002. Due to 785 Brannan’s variety of deviations from planning code – including providing the project’s required open space by building a roof deck and not providing any off-street parking – multiple hearings were required.

The project also proved contentious due to its unconventional approach towards providing inclusionary housing. 785 Brannan will have a different definition of “affordable” than the current city benchmark, as it targets tenants whose incomes remain lower than 50 percent of median income. 60 percent is the city’s current standard. The project also limits eligibility to SRO tenants.

In addition, the project requires a private developer to meet their affordable housing requirement by purchasing land, building housing, and then turning ownership to a nonprofit organization. The 765 Brannan site represents off-site affordable housing included in the deal made for a large housing development on Fourth Street, built by the Residential Builders Association.

Ultimately, the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors agreed that allowances could be made in order to provide such a substantial amount of new affordable housing to San Franciscans.

Project advocates seemed happy with the Board’s decision, despite the long time it took to be reached.

“Finally,” said Central City SRO Collaborative Director Sam Dodge. “Justice delayed is justice denied.I’m glad we finally got this thing approved.”

(Note: The Tenderloin Housing Clinic publishes Beyond Chron.)

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